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Vaccine-related fibrosarcoma

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 

My otherwise healthy 8 year old cat was recently diagnosed with
vaccine-related fibrosarcoma (the vet believes it was the 3 year rabies

He has an appointment with the oncologist on Tuesday.

Can anyone give me some advice as to what questions to ask, what things
I should read up on, what I can expect in terms of treatment and
prognosis, etc.? Any pointers would be helpful.

post #2 of 31
This subject is one of 2 that brought me here.

I am so sorry your cat has this.

A friend of mine's cat died of this. And the clinic she and I went to had an
epidemic of it...12 in one year.

She did not do the chemo..

But we did prolong the cat's life by removing omega-6 fatty acids (found in vegetables/corn etc) and feeding a pure omega-3 diet.
Omega-6 fatty acids fuel tumor growth in animals, there are studies on
this, many in fact.

So by removing them from the diet, you might get a couple or few more months for your pet.

Most vets today give the rabies subcutaneously in the hind leg, so if a sarcoma develops, the leg can be amputated. If your kitty got the vaccine in the "hump" shoulders... well, there are not many arternatives.

My friend put her cat to sleep (it was over 10yrs old) when the tumor became the size of a baseball... the cat seemed to want massaging all the time,
and since cats don't show pain clearly (they even PURR)...it is difficult to know when to "release" him/her.

I no longer go that that vet... they were still pushing vaccines on us, and I wrote down the brand...and called many places. None of them heard of it, and besides that vet (a cat specialist no less) wanted to do rabies every year!
This was also the vet my Tippy got a vaccination allergic reaction.

Pet vaccines are not regulated like human ones...and there is a book by
Roger Caras where he explains how he vaccinated all his kitties for feline leukemia, and when he introduced a rescue who was ill, he lost several of his own as well...the vaccines were not active! Besides human vaccines are under fire too. Adjuvants in them, thiomersal (mercury) have been removed for children, but other things are typically in vaccines--- aluminum, formaldehyde,
and other things...

Here are some sites you might find interesting:


The chemo for cats is expensive and painful... keep that in mind when making your decision..only you can choose.

So sorry for this problem for you... good luck!

has this story in it....perhaps your library will have it. I found mine on a sale table...it is really a good book. (vaccine failure)

post #3 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your reply.

Unfortunately, my cat has the lump in his rear "shoulder" and not on the leg. His primary vet already warned me that because of the location, it was going to be more difficult to treat.

And she still wanted to continue with rabies vaccinations. She said she's required by law to do so. This is in Massachusetts.

I just don't know what to do. This is terribly devastating.
post #4 of 31
Oh my, I am so sorry this has happened to your precious pet. I have had no experience with this even though I have had several cats. I pray that you will find someone who will know how to take care of your cat.
post #5 of 31
Oh my, how terrible. I hope she pulls through. Sorry to say I've never had this problem come across me, but it looks like you've been given some good advice above.
post #6 of 31
Oh - gees I am so sorry to hear this. That is one of the reasons I will only let Loki be vaccinated on his hind legs -NEVER in the neck.

That all depends where the sarcoma is - You never mentioned!!

I have know 2 cats who had a sarcoma - luckely though on one of their hind legs - which eventually was amputated since it had not spread and they are now doing great!!!

Wishing you and your baby all the best!!

Please keep us in the loop!
post #7 of 31
Originally Posted by mlevin
Thanks for your reply.

Unfortunately, my cat has the lump in his rear "shoulder" and not on the leg. His primary vet already warned me that because of the location, it was going to be more difficult to treat.

And she still wanted to continue with rabies vaccinations. She said she's required by law to do so. This is in Massachusetts.

I just don't know what to do. This is terribly devastating.
It's mandatory here in OH as well. I was made to vaccinate my cats for rabies, even though they are indoor. Knowing they can develop cancer from this is scary. But to vaccinate a poor cat again even though he already developed cancer from it is crazy.
post #8 of 31
Hi, Sorry to hear about your kitty, hope eveything goes well. I know what you mean by the rabies shot, (I live in MA too). Good Luck.
post #9 of 31
Mlevin- I'm so sorry you and your baby are going through this.

I'm surprised that the rabies vaccine was given to him in the shoulder, since vets have known about the potential of vaccine-related sarcomas for many years. For this reason, it has become standard practice to administer the vaccine as far down the leg as possible. Vets have long been advised never to give vaccines near the shoulders.

I agree with another member who mentioned that any further vaccines would be absolutely ridiculous given the situation. Your oncologist will tell you that too. Five years ago, my Louie also had a vaccine-related fibrosarcoma, and my oncologist told me no more vaccines of ANY kind for him.

Louie's tumor was removed surgically because it was located in his leg. Louie also had chemo - he tolerated it very well (cats do far better with chemo than humans and dogs) and it gave us an additional 10 precious months together. Without it he had only weeks.

You'll want to know about all treatment options available for your cat. There will be pros and cons to each one and you need to be aware of them in order to make the best decisions possible. The toughest question is asking what to expect from each treatment option in terms of prolonging your cat's life. You can also ask if there are any studies/research being conducted currently that is using new and experimental meds or therapies. If there are, you may be able to have your cat included in such a study. At the time my boy was diagnosed, the standard treatment was surgery (in some cases), chemotherapy, and/or radiation. There may be other options now.

I understand how devastating this is for you. You're doing the right thing by consulting an oncologist ASAP. There are no silly questions in this circumstance, so ask the oncologist everything and anything that concerns you.

One thing to keep in mind is that your cat doesn't know about cancer. He just wants to continue to feel happy and secure and have his life go on as usual. The hardest thing is to put aside your heartache and worry and try to treat him as if nothing has changed. Try to remember that for *him*, nothing *has* changed. For his sake, try hard not to let him feel your anxiety. Play with him, cuddle him, do all the things you'd normally do. If you do this, it will go a long way toward keeping him happy and strong and giving him true quality of life for as long as possible.

I wish you and your kitty all the best - please let us know how it's going.
post #10 of 31
There are several really good websites on this subject. If you go to www.meowhoo.com and look under the Health category you will find several fine cancer websites and other resources. The one website that comes to my mind is dedicated to a cat who had this come up. The owners have made it their mission and their passion to educate the masses about this problem. The cat's name is Sylvia and the website is on meowhoo as well.
post #11 of 31
I found it on this page here If you scroll down it's called Sylvia's Journey of New Hope-
post #12 of 31
Also find out who the manufacturer is of the vaccines that your cat has recieved. One of the company's has a policy about helping with the medical costs if it was their vaccine that caused the sarcoma. I will find out which company it is and post back here.
post #13 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Petnurse2265
Also find out who the manufacturer is of the vaccines that your cat has recieved. One of the company's has a policy about helping with the medical costs if it was their vaccine that caused the sarcoma. I will find out which company it is and post back here.
Thanks. Anything would help.

I'll try to post back here after the appointment.
post #14 of 31
I read an article on this - it actually showed pics of the tumour being removed. Apparently it can be done, and the cat in question had a year before it came back, and the owner decided not to put it through another op. I can't understand why your vet is still insisting on vaccinations though.
post #15 of 31
Would assume that if there are health issues - which are definitely true in your case - a "note from the Doctor" would by pass any law as long as your cat is indoor only!!
post #16 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Hell603
Would assume that if there are health issues - which are definitely true in your case - a "note from the Doctor" would by pass any law as long as your cat is indoor only!!
Good point. My sister's cats are feline leukemia positive and the vet told her not to get any vaccinations -- and she's in Ohio, where I think it is required.
post #17 of 31
I do know of one kitty who did have a VAS successfully removed from between his shoulders; this was probably close to 5 or 6 years ago and he has not had a recurrence. The key to success is removing the tumor ASAP to help increase the chance of clean margins.

I agree that any cat who has had ANY form of serious illness should not be receiving any vaccines. As others have said, a note from the vet will help with the legal issues. Of course non-vaccinated kitties should be kept indoors at all times.

Best of luck to you and your kitty.

post #18 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by mlevin
Unfortunately, my cat has the lump in his rear "shoulder" and not on the leg. His primary vet already warned me that because of the location, it was going to be more difficult to treat.
I guess shoulder is not the right word. I guess I mean his hip. It's on his right hip.
post #19 of 31
Thread Starter 
I had the appointment with the oncologist today.

She said she was "cautiously optimistic" and said that she thinks there is a good chance of helping my cat. Apparently his tumor is relatively small and hasn't been growing very quickly and is in a good location for surgical treatment. She said that based on the lab reports, the tumor doesn't have all of the classic signs of being vaccine-related, but based on the location, she thinks it must be.

She outlined two options:

One option spares his limb but there is a good chance the tumor will recur. This approach involves a more conservative surgery and then 3 weeks of radiation. The cat is often disease free for about 18 months. I think she said that this approach isn't generally curative.

The other option is the radical option and it involves amputation of the leg. This has a good chance of being curative as they will get the entire tumor. There is then no need for radiation. They often recommend several chemo treatments (maybe they do that with either option?) because there is always a chance that an undetectable number of cancer cells have spread to another part of the body and the chemo gives them a decent chance of killing those cells before they really start to grow into something big.

So I think the chemo is something they might do in either case -- she explained that about 25% of the time the cancer can spread, so they might be doing it unnecessarily, but there's no way of knowing if you're one of the 25%, so they often do it anyway.

Her recommendation was the more aggressive approach. This also seems to be the recommendation of non-professionals (cat owners) here on the forums and newsgroups. Many of you have said that the cat does remarkably well and often lives many additional years. Her feeling was that the best chance of a cure is to take an aggressive approach early -- your first shot is always your best shot at getting it.

Given his age (he's 8 and could have many more years), she felt this was a good approach as it is often curative. As opposed to the smaller surgery and radiation and repeated treatments and being disease free for only maybe 18 months, this treatment may be all you ever need to do. Her feeling was that as awful as it sounds, the best recourse is to sacrifice the limb. She explained that this is the reason they give the vaccine there -- so that they have some recourse if this happens. I guess they used to give them in the scruffy part of the neck between the shoulder blades.

My mom, who has had (and lost) several cats and has regretted keeping them alive longer than she should have for HER benefit, suggested I also ask the vet about the "do nothing" approach (asking how long he is likely to live and then just letting him go as long as he seems happy and healthy) and also asking what the benefits would be to non-surgical approaches (radiation and/or chemo only). I have a call in to the vet and I will ask about those things as well -- I guess it is better to have all the information. It is hard for me to imagine simply doing nothing, though, as awful as the treatment sounds. I would feel like I wasn't even trying. And I would have a hard time taking the next step when he did get sick. If there's something that may prevent him from getting sick at all, isn't that a good option? Or is that being selfish?

We're going to do a CT scan next to see exactly where the tumor is just in case it has gone farther than we think, and then depending on what I decide, I will talk to the surgeon. We did a chest xray today and it didn't show any problems elsewhere.

So now I need to decide what's best for him (and what's best for me?) -- giving him the best chance of being cured and living several(?) more years, but with a disability (although one that people say is really not so terrible for the cat), or living some period of time (unknown) the way he is now but knowing that he'll get sick at some point in the future. The cost doesn't matter to me. I just want to do what's best and it is really hard to figure out whether trying to treat him would really be for me and not for him.

Well, that's the update for now. Thanks to everyone who has responded!
post #20 of 31
I am still working on which manufacturer, help with the sarcoma's, I am almost positive it is fort dodge, but I will double check tomorrow.
post #21 of 31
Hi mlevin - I think it's great that the oncologist is "cautiously optimistic" - keeping my fingers crossed for you and your kitty that you did, in fact, catch the tumor early.

You have a lot to think about, and obviously more questions for the doctor - maybe once they're answered it will help you make your decision. Since time is of the essence in this situation, you'll need to make your choice as soon as you can. It's a tough spot to be in.

I loved your comment that "the cost doesn't matter to me... I just want to do what's best..." I don't doubt that you will do what's best for your baby.

Thanks so much for letting us know how it went today - I know lots of good wishes and prayers will be going out to you and your kitty.
post #22 of 31
Thread Starter 
I'm wondering if it is worth getting a second opinion now. I'm not sure if there's really a lot of time to do that and I wonder if it will only make me start second-guessing myself...

And while I don't care that much, I wonder if prices vary significantly.

Did [m]any of you who faced this problem seek out second opinions?
post #23 of 31
It is Fort Dodge who has the sarcoma guarantee if it was thier vaccine that was used.
post #24 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Petnurse2265
It is Fort Dodge who has the sarcoma guarantee if it was thier vaccine that was used.
Thanks. So how do you go about claiming the money? And how much do they give you?

I hope my vet has records of which vaccine they used.
post #25 of 31
This is a great thread for information! Thank you everyone for your
ideas and links.

Mlevin I really feel for you, and it looks like things have changed
therapeutically in just the last 5 years! When I was involved in the situation with my friend...it was still new..and many vets were uninformed.

I'll be eagerly watching for more on this and I hope you find the
treatment that extends your kittie's life.

I follow the vaccine controversies for humans too... and it is murky there

Please keep us up to date!

post #26 of 31
Ask you vet which vaccines they use, if they do use the Fort Dodge (and you vet has it documented what was used and where the injection site is), then ask them to get you the number to contact Fort Dodge. I am just going by what are drug rep told us (he was in today, so I double checked).
post #27 of 31
Thread Starter 
I took my cat back to the primary vet's office today for a recheck (to removal a suture from the biopsy and to look at his teeth as they did a dental cleaning and had to pull one -- we did both at the same time as they were putting him under anyway). I saw yet another vet today (I had to reschedule my appointment and the original vet wasn't in today). This was probably a good thing as I got yet another perspective.

I talked to this vet about the options and while she is not an oncologist, she was certainly familiar with this condition and the possible treatments and she concurred that given my cat's age and the good chances of removing the entire tumor, she strongly recommended the amputation. She said that's what she'd do with her own cat. She, like everyone else I've talked to, also told me that cats do remarkably well on three legs, especially when the missing leg is a hind leg (cats put most of their weight on the front legs), and she also pointed out that cat's don't really have a "sense of self" like we do, so he's not going to "feel bad" about it. So I'm feeling a little bit better (well, a little less terrible) about taking this approach.

So I've now talked to three vets, all of whom have both seen the cat's records and physically examined him, and I got a response online from another vet. They've all said the same thing. And I know that the vets I actually saw all trained at different places, but their answers were very consistent. This vet told me that if I wanted to see another oncologist to make me more comfortable, I could of course do that, but she doubted that another oncologist would tell me anything significantly different. For a tumor of this type and in this location, she said that amputation is very much the standard treatment. So I sort of feel like I've gotten several opinions now.

There's still a possibility that the CT scan will indicate that the tumor has extended into the pelvis. If that is the case, removing the leg won't help and they'd probably have to do radiation (and of course there would not be nearly as good a prognosis). But, again, she stressed that if it has not spread beyond the leg, then there's no question that the best thing to do is to take the limb.

I also asked about how this happens and she mentioned that studies have shown that this type of tumor can be associated with the feline leukemia vaccine, but she wasn't aware of it being associated with the rabies vaccine, which is what the first vet thought might be the case. It's also what the oncologist thought might be the case (although she did mention that the pathology didn't have all the hallmarks of a vaccine-related tumor). We may never know. But based on the location (right hind leg), that's what both the original vet and then oncologist suspected. Apparently the feline leukemia vaccine is given in the left hind leg, so that wouldn't explain a tumor on the right hind leg (the vet today said she hadn't seen this type of tumor on the right hind leg), but I suppose it is possible that at the clinic he went to before this one, they didn't follow the standard protocols and gave it in a different location.

So that's the update. The CT scan on Wednesday should tell us more.

Oh, and apparently his suture didn't need to be removed because it was already gone! I swear it was there a few days ago. I guess he decided it was time for it to go!
post #28 of 31
Thread Starter 
Just thought I'd let you all know that the preliminary results of the CT scan (I haven't gotten the official report) showed that the tumor is not too deep and that surgery remains the best option. There was some concern that the tumor was too deep into the pelvis to be operable.
post #29 of 31
I am going through a very similar situation.
I just had my 9 yr old "Max" to the vet for a lump on his right hip. It has been there for 5 months and at one point actually seemed to be shrinking. I actually put off taking him to the vet bc. I feared their pushing the vaccines on him! The lump is not painful and he is very active and eating as usual. The vet said that the lump doesn't feel as if it has invaded the underlying tissue. So at first I was optimistic. Then the vet ran pre-surgical blood work and tests and I just got the results- no obvious spread to the chest cavity, all bloodwork normal except for a very low WBC (2.1). The vet wants to test him for Feline Leukemia (Max was tested and vaccinated in Jan./Feb of 2004 and not due to have a booster until 12/05). He wants to re-check the WBC in 7-10 days to see if it has gone up at all.
So much for feeling optimistic! Now I am really worried. While the Max seems fine, I have lost 5 pounds in 5 days, can't hardly eat and am shaking with fear over the possiblility of loosing my dear, sweet Max. He is the most wonderful cat I've ever had or met. He loves me so, I can see it when he looks at me. Even the techs at the vet comment repeatedly about how sweet he is. I feel like, if this is vaccine-related fibrosarcoma, I let Max down by getting the vaccines for him! Crying as I type this.......just wanted you to know that you are not alone and best wishes to you and your own dear kitty.
post #30 of 31
Thread Starter 

I am so sorry to hear about this. I went through many different stages of dealing with this (and it's far from over). When the vet first told me what it MIGHT be, I was in a panic and couldn't eat or sleep until I got the results. Then when I finally got the diagnosis, I started reading up on it and heard all these terrible things and until I went to see the oncologist, I was terribly depressed as I as sure she was going to tell me there was nothing we could do. Now that she's told me that he has a good option but it requires amputation, I am trying to get comfortable with that -- and so many people have told me that it is really not as terrible as it sounds (at least for the cat).

I felt responsible, too -- and in many ways I still do -- but I am starting to deal with that as well. I feel like I made the best decision with the information I had been given at the time. When my cat was vaccinated, nobody told me about all these problems with the vaccines. So I am trying not to blame myself. I think we know a lot more about this now than we did even a few years ago. So I hope that the better (and more recently out of school) vets are telling people about the potential dangers of vaccines.

I haven't had the surgical consultation yet, but I remain hopeful that despite the barbaric-sounding treatment, I am able to give my cat many disease-free years.

I hope everything turns out well for you and your cat -- and just know that whatever decision you make for him, I'm sure he knows you love him.
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